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Midlife obesity raises risk
of Alzheimer's disease later
Newswise — People who are
overweight or obese in their 40s have a greater risk of developing
Alzheimer’s disease later in life, according to research to be presented
at the American Academy of Neurology 58th Annual Meeting in San
Diego, Calif., April 1 – 8, 2006.
For the study, researchers
followed nearly 9,000 people over a period of up to 30 years. The
study participants were evaluated for overweight and obesity by
measuring skinfold thickness below the shoulder and at the back of
the upper arm.
Those with higher skinfold
measurements in their 40s were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s
disease than those with smaller skinfold measurements. Those in the
highest group of shoulder skinfold measurements were nearly three
times as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as those in the
lowest group. For the arm measurements, those in the highest group
were 21⁄2 times as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as those in the
The results did not change when
researchers took into account people with diabetes and other
conditions that can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
“These findings are important
because obesity and overweight are treatable and modifiable risk
factors,” said study author Rachel A. Whitmer, PhD, of the Kaiser
Permanente Foundation Research Institute in Oakland, CA. “These
results need to be confirmed, but these results suggest that keeping
your weight down in midlife can help you remain mentally alert later
on in life. And if we don’t control the current epidemic of obesity,
the number of cases of dementia in the future may increase even
higher than is currently predicted.”
Whitmer noted that future studies
are needed to examine the molecular mechanisms that link obesity and
The study was supported by a grant
from the National Institutes of Health.
The American Academy of Neurology,
an association of nearly 19,000 neurologists and neuroscience
professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through
education and research. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized
training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain
and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, multiple
sclerosis, Parkinson disease, and stroke.